Ciao DC. We Moved to Italy!

Four years ago, we purchased a little two bedroom condo in the heart of Logan Circle in Washington, DC.  This little condo has been home to so many adventures, parties, and firsts, including the place that we welcomed our first child.  We’ve done so much work to make it feel like “home,” and it has been the most perfect home for us.  We’ll miss our weekend walks to the White House and numerous museums, our frequent trips to the many grocery stores nearby, dinners at Le Diplomate, happy hours at Black Jack, and lounging in the circle on beautiful sunny days.  As much as we will miss our happy home, we are so excited to create new family adventures and experiences in our new home… in Naples, Italy.

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With this new adventure comes a lot of “TO DOs.”  We had to stage and sell our condo (DONE!), sell off some of our furniture (DONE!), schedule movers (DONE!), and figure out what to pack in our suitcases, since it will take a few months for our household goods to arrive to Italy.

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Empty Closet!

It’s been a quick journey, but we’ve been blessed throughout.  We had 6 weeks to sell our home, schedule movers and passports and everything else, and arrive.  Luckily, our little home sold immediately thanks to our great real estate agent.  Everything else has been a bit more challenging, but we understand that every adventure includes some challenges.

I’m excited to share our Italian housing search on here, as well as our decorating experience and some of our travels!  Until then, wish us luck for a smooth move and transition… we could use it! 🙂

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Living with Exposed Brick (Things to Consider Before Exposing Your Brick)

As we’re moving out of our home, we’re reflecting on so many of our choices, including the exposed brick wall.  The first thing that people comment on when they walk into our home is the expansive brick wall that we exposed a few years back (and shared how to -not- clean brick).  It’s a fun feature that gives our condo some character, but there are certainly some things we wish we’d known before taking the “exposed brick” leap.

IMG_7923Pros: A well-designed interior includes color, pattern, shine, and TEXTURE.  Brick is a beautiful, organic way to add texture to a space.  It looks STYLISH and classic (subjective but hey).  It reveals the age and craftsmanship of a building.  It creates a loft-like vibe and is effortlessly chic.

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Cons:  DUST. Constant dust.  We sealed our wall with a professional grade sealer that is used in many restaurants, yet our wall constantly sheds dust.  We have to wipe it down and vacuum it frequently.  We also had to get a leather sofa and can’t have cream or white things near it.  Brick dust STAINS everything so we really have to be careful.  DARKNESS.  I’m sure in a light-filled space with large windows this wouldn’t be an issue.  However, we live in an English basement, and a dark brick wall made our home instantly feel… darker.  We ended up white washing it to minimize the impact.  ELECTRICAL.  Some people don’t mind the look of exposed electrical conduit, but I would have preferred ours to be hidden.  If you need an outlet on your brick wall, the path to it will be exposed.

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Would we still have exposed our brick?  YES.  We’re gluttons for punishment.  However, there are a few things we would have done differently.  1. We wouldn’t have repaired the brick.  Brick has a rustic look already, and the expense to repair it was not worth the cost.  2. We would have worked WAY less on cleaning it.  Muriatic acid, quick brush, sealed it (maybe 2-3 coats of sealant). DONE.  3. We would have shopped around more for the electrician that installed the outlet, in order to minimize the conduit.  We’ve since had other electricians out, and they all agree that we didn’t need the vertical conduit that is an eyesore in the center of the wall.  You live, and you learn. 

 

HOUZZ FEATURE

This past year has been incredibly life changing with the arrival of our daughter Esme.  A week after she was born I received an email from a Houzz contributor that wanted to feature our home.  As a perfectionist and a designer, I felt like our home wasn’t even close to being finished, but I also thought it would be a fun endeavor.  Within three weeks, we had a photographer at our door and our home was being photographed!

 

If you’ve never had your home photographed within a few weeks of giving birth, then you haven’t LIVED! Haha.  The poor photographer didn’t know what he was walking into.  I haggardly greeted him at the door with a screaming infant in my arms and had to hide away immediately to nurse her.  It was a miracle that my home was semi-clean at all!

 

Since our home is an English basement condo, lighting for photography can be tricky.  Additionally, we have a long wall of exposed brick that makes our home even darker, and the day that the photographer came was a dark, rainy afternoon.  Despite these obstacles, I was so impressed at how the images turned out!

 

My mother-in-law was visiting during the shoot (and I still wasn’t cleared to drive due to my recent emergency c-section) so I didn’t do anything extra to style our home for the feature, except add some fruit in the kitchen!  Truthfully, that fruit was still there a month later, hardened and spoiled.  Poor little lemons and limes…

 

It makes me laugh looking back because they included a picture of my husband, daughter, and myself… and we look EXHAUSTED.  I look very “postpartum,” my newborn daughter is screaming, and my husband hadn’t slept in a few weeks.  It’s a very REAL representation of that moment.

 

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity though to have our home featured.  Our home looks so different now, as it’s had to change to accommodate an active, mobile child.  Having images from such a momentous, life-changing period is truly a gift that I will treasure.

Dining Room on a Budget

This is the part 2 in a mini-series on decorating on a budget.  I started in the living room and am now in my favorite room in any house (because it’s where I get to eat), the dining room!  I appreciate a BIG dining table (if you have room for one) because I love having people over for celebrations.  There’s something magical about a huge table filled with food and surrounded by people you love.  My goal was to find budget friendly dining tables and chairs that could fit 8 or more people.  I started with some simple dining sets for people that prefer their table and chairs to match perfectly, but I chose a couple less “matchy” designs for people that enjoy enjoy some contrast in their design.

Design 1:

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This set includes 8 upholstered dining chairs and a 90″ table (when fully extended) made of pine and wood veneers.  Having a child/ being a messy eater myself, I recognize that upholstered dining chairs could be a BIG issue, but the fabric is brown and looks durable so it might withstand a lot of scrubbings!

  • PRICE: $1398

Design 2:

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This set has a French country vibe, but I love that it could be used in a traditional or modern home.  It includes 10 chairs and a 108″ table made of pinewood.  I question how sturdy the chairs are due to their “dainty” appearance, but according to the manufacturer the weight capacity is 400 lbs.

  • PRICE: $1380

Design 3:

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This isn’t really a “set,” but I love the collected look of these modern leather chairs with this rustic solid wood table.  The Acacia solid wood table has a removable leaf and can extend up to 106″ and seat up to 10 people.  Since it’s solid wood and has a rustic appearance, it can also take a beating.  Scratches and dents won’t really mar the appearance of this table!  The faux leather dining chair would be easy to wipe clean, and I love that it’s a modern twist on a mid-century design.

  • For the dining table and 8 chairs, PRICE: $1262

Design 4:

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I ADORE this simple solid wood table that extends up to 95″ and can sit up to 10 people.  You can purchase matching chairs for it, but I love the contrast of these white chairs.  I honestly couldn’t decide between the midcentury Eiffel chair and the metal farmhouse chair so I left both as options.

  • For the table and 8 Eiffel chairs, PRICE: $1354
  • For the table and 8 farmhouse chairs, PRICE: $1338

A NOTE ON RUGS: My husband and I don’t have an eat-in kitchen so we use our formal dining space for every meal.  Due to its heavy use, I prefer not to have rugs underneath our dining table.  It makes clean up such a breeze!  However, if you REALLY love having a rug under your dining table, I love the look of a simple jute rug or a flat indoor/outdoor rug that can be hosed off in the case of a particularly messy meal.  If you have an open concept home and have a rug in your living room, I prefer the two rugs to coordinate but not to be identical.  For example, if you have a solid colored shag rug in your living room, I’d opt for a fun print in your dining room.  However, if you have a print rug in your living room, I’d opt for a jute rug in the dining room.   Some people are wizards at coordinating prints in the same space, but I find that is an expert skill that I have certainly not mastered!

3 Living Room Designs on a Budget (Under $2000)

I thought it’d be fun to design a few basic living rooms with budget in mind.  All of the items that I found for this post are available online and can ship to anywhere in the continental U.S.  I also designed these specifically for people with children, which is why I chose faux leather for the sofas (wipeable) and darker area rugs.  I once read that any rugs that are touched by little feet should be dirt-colored, and I took that advice rather seriously!  In each design, I also tried to include an area to store a few toys.  I know many families have a toy room or basement for the majority of the kid clutter, but I love the idea of keeping a few small, quiet-time toys in the adult area for the family to use together!  Additionally, many of the pieces in each of the designs could be used for ANY of the spaces, like the giant sectional in design #2 or the metal storage container in design #3!  It’s all rather “mix-and-match” friendly.

Design 1: 

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This room features TWO navy sofas ($430 each), a large 10’x13′ rug ($501), a pewter-colored storage ottoman (The top can flip over so it has a hard space for drinks or board games, and it’d look gorgeous in this room in the burnt red or brown color that it also comes in.-$175), a small metal side table ($20), and an industrial floor lamp ($55).  TOTAL COST: $1611

Design #2:

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This design includes a large Chesterfield sectional with matching ottoman in tan leather ($1430), a stunning 9’x12′ rug ($230), a metal side table ($20), and a modern cabinet that could be a media stand or just hold toys, books, or games ($212).  TOTAL COST: $1892

Design 3: 

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This Bohemian design has a little more color and shine than my other two designs.  It includes a modern black sectional (ignore the pillows in the picture- $640), a colorful 8’x10′ rug that is just a bit muted so it doesn’t look too juvenile ($164), TWO fun, plush swivel chairs (I guarantee the kids will fight to sit in these!-$157 each) with a C-table between them (These are fabulous to pull up to the sofa and eat over OR to use as a small side table.- $33), and a metal storage coffee table ($199). TOTAL COST: $1350

A WORD ON ACCESSORIES: I love to find accessories to finish a space over time.  Sometimes, I think buying everything for a room at the same time makes it feel too “big box store,” as opposed to “collected.”  I enjoy decorating with books that I actually enjoy reading, as well as items with some significance.

For art, I enjoy using family pictures in an artistic way.  For example, you could enlarge and print off a few black and white images of your family.  Staples offers engineer prints at a ridiculously low cost ($1.90-$14). You could hang a few of these family images with these unique canvas hangers ($14-$23) for personalized, inexpensive art.

For curtains, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS buy these ones from IKEA ($9.99).  They’re long, crisp, and inexpensive.  I hang them wide and high OUTSIDE of the window, and I always hang them all the way to the ground.

For throw pillows, I often prefer leather couches without any throw pillows at all, but I know many people enjoy cozying up with a pillow.  IKEA has a ton of inexpensive velvety cushion covers ($6), and I’m also quite keen on these white fur cushion covers ($18 for 2).  I actually own the fur covers, and they wash really well!

I hope you enjoyed this budget feature!  I plan on doing a few more of these, as they are a blast to put together.

Tiny Lake House & Opalhouse by Target

I haven’t written about it often, but last spring my parents bought a tiny lake house to fix up.  It has the best water views and sits high on a hill overlooking the lake.  My mom has always been obsessed with the television show Tiny Homes so she was ecstatic to get to decorate her own!  It’s under 600 square feet and just the cutest place ever.  We spent last year decorating the place together.  She and my dad did the hard renovation part, and I just helped pick out pieces for the house.  I haven’t taken nice pictures of it yet, but here are a few incredibly terrible ones!  Warning: I had just gotten a fish eye tense for my PHONE and was excited to play around with it.  Seriously, prepare yourself!

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They chose a dark slate colored siding and added wooden pineapple shutters to the exterior.  The house has two levels of decking for entertaining.  Both have large outdoor rugs that match the exterior and space for eating.  How cute are my parents in the shot above?!

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I REALLY need to go back this summer and take proper pictures of this place.  It is adorable!  Above you can see their tiny kitchen complete with appliances originally for motor homes!  They also have a black leather sleeper sofa from Ikea (perfect for the wet hineys of grandkids fresh out of the water), a durable rug from World Market, a wooden convertible dining table from Ikea, and a collection of African baskets that I thrifted for them.

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The bathroom is simple and mainly black and white.  It has a washer & dryer, a little shower, this toilet nook, and a small sink with medicine cabinet.  That toilet also has fabulous views of the lake! LOL

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This is the tiny bedroom, which already has a different bedding set.  Every window in the house has grass shades.  The bedroom does have an ample closet behind the door, although the majority of the room is the bed!  Check out the new bedding that my mom scored at Target.  It was part of the Jungalow collection.

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Are you getting the boho vibe?  If not, we missed the mark and need to start fresh… enter Target’s newest collection Opalhouse. I’m obsessed with pretty much everything in the collection, especially the wallpaper.  Since the tiny lake house has white walls throughout, we thought it’d be fun to wallpaper just the wall behind the bed.

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We want a busy look that appears “collected.”  Unfortunately, we can’t decide which wallpaper looks best, if any?

Nursery Reveal & Budget

I wrote about our nursery planning here and here, but I realized (5 months postpartum) that I never shared what our nursery currently looks like here.  I say “currently” because the space is constantly changing as our daughter’s needs change (or my whims change…).  Anyways, I wanted to decorate and furnish it on a very tight budget.  Having 13 nieces and nephews has been so helpful to us since we have seen how quickly kids outgrow things.  We just didn’t see the benefit in spending $1000 on a crib that was used for a short time.

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For more pictures of the nursery, you can see it in our Houzz feature or over at the D.C. Goodwill Fashionista (where I also blog about decor and thrifty finds).  I do want to share my full budget breakdown here though.  It is totally possible to furnish (and decorate) a nursery on a budget.  I relied heavily on used items, which I love for their affordability AND sustainability.  Having a baby greatly increases our carbon footprint so we try to be as green as possible.  In a world that tells us that our children need LOTS of shiny, plastic, expensive stuff, we’re trying our best to do our part to minimize the impact by purchasing mostly used or recycled items.

Budget Breakdown

  • Second-Hand Crib: $100
  • Mini Crib Mattress: $47
  • Mini Crib Sheet: $6
  • Second-Hand Changing Pad: $3
  • Changing Pad Cover: $9
  • Second-Hand Campaign-Style Dresser and Nightstand: $20
  • Second-Hand Canvas for DIY Art: $3
  • Second-Hand Bamboo Mirror: $5
  • Second-Hand Teal & White Storage Baskets: $6
  • Second-Hand Rocking Horse (painted blue): $5
  • Second-Hand Pink Basket for Blankets: $2
  • Chair & Ottoman for Feeding: $298
  • 2 Shelves & 4 Brackets (painted blue): $16
  • 2 Picture Ledges for Books: $20
  • Rug: $40 (on sale)

TOTAL: $580

My biggest expense was on a chair and ottoman, which I’ve recently taken out of the nursery and decided to use in my living room instead.  I still kept it in the budget though since it’s a fabulous place to nurse my little one!  Hopefully, this encourages anyone that is hoping to furnish or decorate for themselves on a budget OR trying to be more green in their decorating purchases.

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Upcycle: Winter Sweater into a Spring “Mommy and Me” Outfit

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I have two confessions.  1) I am totally pretending it’s spring outside by wearing spring clothing around my house.  It’s currently 15 degrees with the windchill.  2) I am OBSESSED with “mommy and me” matching outfits.  Why do either of these confessions matter?  In the grand scheme of life, they don’t.  However, in my own little DIY world they combined together to give me a great idea.  I was cleaning out my closet when I saw this sweater that I had purchased from Goodwill while I was pregnant.  It was one of the few things that fit around my massive bump!

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Old Sweater (Ignore the poor quality photo… and the pose! haha)

I didn’t love it on me anymore and was about to put it in my “donate” pile when I got an idea.  I could turn it into a more spring appropriate top by making it a short-sleeve sweater.  Never one to waste material, I thought I would experiment a bit and attempt some baby clothing from the sleeves.  You guys… I’m loving the result.

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I ended up chopping off the sleeves and using them to create tiny infant shorts and a matching infant bow!  I’m obsessed!  I love matching my little lady, and matching her for the price of an old, thrifted top is even better!

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How cute are those tiny infant shorts?!  I paired it with a Baby Gap top that I purchased secondhand from Goodwill and some tiny baby shoes from Old Navy (found on clearance for $2.50).  Such a bargain!

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The best part is that it was incredibly easy.  I’m by no means a skilled seamstress, and I was able to create the outfit quickly and easily.  Here’s how…

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  1. I flipped the shirt inside out and folded it in half so that the sleeves were lined up on top of each other.  Then I put a pair of my daughter’s infant pants on top of the sleeves to use as a guide. 
  2. I cut around the pants, leaving an extra 3 cm at the crotch to provide seam allowance and a couple inches at the top so I could fold them down and add elastic.
  3. Separating the sleeves, I pinned them together where the two sides would meet to form the crotch.
  4. I sewed a straight line over the two pinned pieces, and then I sewed along the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch so it wouldn’t ravel.
  5. I measured some elastic for the waistband and folded down the waist and sewed along it.  I left about an inch open so I could feed the elastic into the waistband, sew it together, and then close the gap.  
  6. Turn the pants right side out and try them on.  This is where my big OOPS came… note that one leg is longer than the other.  I decided to turn them into shorts at this point since the sweater material almost looked like elegant boucle shorts.  To turn them into shorts, I simply measured for length, cut them, turned up the hem and sewed them shorter.

I decided to use the cut off portion to make a headband and matching flower.  This type of fabric flower is really simple so I just included this image to show the basic steps.

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Whenever I am sorting through old clothing, I always create 3 piles: Keep. Donate. Toss/Craft.  I don’t donate items that are stained or have holes so I instead process those items by removing any buttons, sequins, etc for future crafting and keeping the fabric for crafting (if it’s nice) or kitchen rags.  I’m so glad I do that now because I found 3 buttons in my sewing box that were processed off of an old skirt that I loved.  I added one button onto the center of my flower and the other two to the infant shorts.

 

 

As for the sweater… turning a long sleeve top into a short sleeve top is simple.  After cutting off the sleeves, I zig-zagged the edges and flipped them up to form a cuff.  Then I sewed a straight line around the top of each cuff to create the “cuffed” sleeve look.

 

 

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Now, we have our own spring “Mommy and Me” outfit that barely took any time and re-used items that we already had on hand.  I can’t wait to try a few more upcycles for the spring and summer after cleaning out my closet!

The Look for Less: Bedside Sconces

After bringing home our daughter, my bedside table has become filled with STUFF.  I used to just keep my lamp, a book to read with a picture on top of it (to look all decorative and such), my phone, and a bottle of water on the table.  Honestly, those items filled up the table pretty completely.  Now, however, I keep: the lamp, water, a pacifier, my breast pump (keeping it real), a fan for white noise, a book (usually a “how to raise a baby” book), my phone, and a burp rag. It’s a mess, and I’m so sick of staring at it.  I decided to get rid of my bedside lamp, which takes up a lot of tabletop real estate and switch it out for a wall-mounted plug-in sconce.  Of course, I fell in love with a ridiculously priced wall sconce: $440 for 2 sconces.  That’s just not at all going to happen…

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I decided to go on a hunt for similar sconces that fit my budget better, as in less than $50 per sconce.  Being a somewhat frugal person, I felt guilty purchasing bedroom lighting when I already had functional lighting so I’ve been putting it off for a while.  I purchased my bedroom lamps more than 8 years ago (at the very beginning of the brass trend) while we were living in Japan, and I was sad to part with them.  In perfect timing, one of them randomly broke the other day, and I took it as a sign that I should get the wall sconces that I’ve been wanting.  I’m trying to decide between these favorites, which all happened to be from the same website because they’re pricing, free shipping, and free return policy won me over.

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1, 2, 3, 4

They’re all very different in style (numbers 1&4 are more traditional, while 2 & 3 are more modern), and they are similar in price (they all cost $99.99 for TWO sconces, except #2 only costs $79.99).  I can’t decide which one to get, although I’m leaning towards the pure brass options, since the back wall of my bedroom is a very dark color already (number 4 might blend in too much).  Do you have a favorite or a different source with stellar options in my price range?

The Look for Less: Breakfast Nook

Long ago, I pinned this image and return to admire it frequently.  Since I don’t have my own breakfast nook to recreate this design (or the hundreds of others that inspire me), I thought it would be fun to begin writing a “Look for Less” feature monthly on how to recreate designer looks on a dime.  Of course, my preferred method of saving money is thrifting or buying items secondhand via Craigslist or similar sites, but I’ll stick to online stores so others can actually recreate the look if they wish.

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The cost of an upholstered banquette bench can cost $1,000 easily, and a Saarinen tulip table is upwards of $3,000.  Due to the potential expense of this design, I thought it would be fun to recreate this full look (banquette/ bench, table, two chairs, and a rug) for under $1,000 with less expensive finds.  I came up with three similar designs at three separate price points.  I’d personally paint my own abstract art, but I included the original painting in my mock designs.

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I started by finding three very different banquettes at different price points.  I tend to like bright colors a bit too much, so of course I had to include the bright blue!  I’m always impressed when I see households with upholstered dining furniture that isn’t covered in stains.  I’m not that talented at keeping my sauces off of my furniture, so I personally prefer the washable leather-like finished of choices 1 and 2.

I’m a big fan of tulip tables, and I actually used to own the Docksta table from Ikea (#3).  In fact, I wrote a huge post about ways to hack the Docksta table.  However, I’m really enjoying these other options below, especially that shiny brass base!

I LOVE the look of clear acrylic chairs, but I’ve always been concerned about smudges on them.  Is that even a real concern? I picture myself wiping fingerprints off of them nonstop, but I probably wouldn’t mind wiping down any of these beauties.  The bentwood-style frame of #3 is a favorite of mine.

Now, I need to get a breakfast room to recreate this look on my own!  I hope you enjoyed my new feature, and let me know if there’s a design that you’d like to recreate for less!